Back in September 2013, YouTube announced it would be adding offline viewing to its mobile apps, allowing you to watch YouTube videos on your daily commute, or anywhere you don't have an internet connection. What's actually happened is there's now a premium service (YouTube Red) that allows you to do so. It also strips out the ads.
One problem: YouTube Red is not available in the UK.
The good news is that it's easy to download YouTube videos to watch later, and here we'll show you how to save them to your PC, smartphone or tablet, regardless of whether you have an iOS, Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry device.
For the ethics and legality of doing this, see: Is it legal to download YouTube videos? But suffice to say, if you're downloading video for your own viewing only then you shouldn't have anything to fear. Also see: how to download music from YouTube.
Jump straight to the section you need:
- Download YouTube videos using a web browser
- Download YouTube audio only
- Download YouTube videos to Android or iPhone / iPad
- Download YouTube playlists
There are three main ways to download YouTube videos to your PC or laptop: you can use a browser plug-in, paste the URL of a video into a site that offers to download YouTube videos, or you can type vd, dl or dlv in front of YouTube in the address bar when you're on a page with the video you want to download (eg. www.vdyoutube.com...), then press Enter.
In the following walkthrough we’ll use KeepVid, but Freemake Video Converter and Freemake Video Downloader are also good alternative options if you want a piece of software which can also convert the downloaded videos into other formats (see below for yet another option: YouTubebyClick).
1. Head to www.youtube.com and find a video you want to download. Copy the URL from your browser's address bar. Clicking in the address bar is usually enough to highlight it, but clicking three times should also do the job. Press Ctrl-C to copy the highlighted address.
2. Head to keepvid.com and click in the box to the left of the Download button. Press Ctrl-V to paste your copied URL and click Download. You’ll see the available versions of the video appear below. Ignore the big 'download' buttons - these are adverts.
3. From the list, choose the format you want. We recommend MP4 for the best compatibility, and go for the highest quality – in this case it’s 720p. Simply click the link to start the download – ignore the flashing adverts around the page which are not download links at all.
4. Look in your ‘downloads’ folder, or click the downloaded video in your browser’s status bar (we’re using Chrome here) to watch the video. You can also copy the file to another computer or transfer it to another device (here's how to convert videos for free using Freemake and Any Video Converter.)
You could alternatively use ClipConverter, a free online tool that downloads YouTube videos and converts them into the format of your choice.
Simply visit the site here, paste the full YouTube URL into the main black bar and then click once on your format of choice (e.g. MP4). Then click Continue, close any pop ups and finally click Start at the bottom of the window. The file will save in your chosen format in your PC or Mac's Downloads folder.
Sometimes you have to pay for software if you want an easy life. YouTube ByClick makes it supremely easy to download video - or just audio - from YouTube. All you have to do is to copy the URL of a video and a pop-up will ask if you want to download the audio or video. Or you can set a default and it won't even ask: it will automatically download the MP3 or MP4 at the default quality.
If the video is part of a playlist you can click the 'Download playlist' button and you'll get a pop-up like the one shown below where you can choose which videos you want from the playlist. A single click on the Download button is all you need after that.
You get a day's free trial to see if you like the program, but after that you'll have to stump up some cash. Currently, it's half price at $14.99 (approx £11.50).
Sometimes you might want to download only the audio from a video on YouTube. The easiest way to do this is to find the video you want, then add 'to' in the address bar after youtube. So, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGCCdYfUQWc becomes https://www.youtubeto.com/watch?v=cGCCdYfUQWc
Hit Enter and you'll go to the youtubeto website where the MP3 will automatically be downloaded to your downloads folder. Again, it couldn't be easier.
If this method doesn't work, there are many other options including the following:
The process is almost identical to the one described above, but instead of using KeepVid.com, browse to http://www.listentoyoutube.com/ and paste the URL of the video into the obvious box.
If the conversion doesn't happen automatically, click the blue Go button, and you will see the progress. Finally, click the download link when it appears. Then, you can treat the file like any MP3, transferring and synching it to an MP3 player, smartphone or tablet.
For Android devices, simply copy the MP4 files(s) to the appropriate folder, typically Movies, using Windows Explorer. You can then play it back using the Gallery app or another video player.
If you have an iPhone or iPad, import the file into iTunes and then sync it to your iOS device. Alternatively, you can drag and drop the file(s) to your iPhone or iPad via the Apps tab when you click on your devie in iTunes. All you need is an app, such as Good Reader or another video playback app which can transfer files using this method.
Of course, you can download YouTube videos directly to your smartphone or tablet without using your PC, laptop or Mac at all.
There are a few ways to download YouTube videos to a phone or tablet. The first is to use an app, which we explain below. The second works only with Android, and only when you're watching video using the browser rather than the YouTube app. This method requires you to replace m.youtube... in the URL with either vdyoutube... or dlvyoutube..., then press Enter. You'll be taken directly to a download site where you can choose your quality option and hit download (we had a few issues with pop-ups here - see how to stop Android pop-ups). Also, as we mentioned already, YouTube is cracking down on these sites and dlvyoutube.com isn't working at present.
There are many free apps available on Google Play and in Apple's App Store, but we've found that TubeMate is a great choice for Android (you will have to sideload this, since Google won't allow it in its app store), while Video Player and File Manager for Dropbox and Google Drive works well on an iPad or iPhone. Note: These apps are regularly removed and banned from app stores, so we'll keep this article up to date with whichever app is currently working. Unless you pay for the Pro versions, you tend to get bombarded with ads but we'd strongly recommend you don't pay for them as they could get banned and stop working at any moment and you won't get a refund.
All apps work in the same way. They include a web browser, which usually has YouTube, or the mobile version of YouTube, set as the homepage - or a bookmark. You use the browser to find a video you like, just as you would on your PC. When the video starts playing, a message will pop up asking if you want to download (or save) the video. Tap this and the video will be downloaded.
There may be options to name the file, or choose which quality to download, but when downloaded, your videos should be accessible via a separate tab within the app, labeled Files or Videos. You can watch these whenever you like, without an internet connection.
Here's our detailed walkthrough on using TubeMate on an Android device